Coherence

Consider this something of a reading list, all based on a theme:

 

“The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom… If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise”  — in which Bruce Charlton delves into this concept.  In fact, a choice quote, w/which I strongly empathize:

If I have any virtue in a higher than usual degree it probably is exactly this – that I persist in my folly, with honesty, until its falsehood becomes evident and unavoidable;

Another, more central to the point of this post:

Error is self-correcting IF we stick by it honestly, and follow it through to conclusion…This created world has ultimate coherence, since it is the product of one God. Therefore, all error will reveal itself in incoherence.

Similar, from the Junior Ganymede:

There are a few phrases that are so true that they have the force of incantations and bywords. They come to mind now:

The only way out is through.

You can’t go home again.

No man can step in the same river twice.

The deep meaning of the Atonement is that you can never escape history. You can only embrace it so fully that you master it. That, it turns out, is also the deep meaning of the creation story.

Today our Sunday School lesson was on David and Bathsheba, the adulterers who begat Solomon, and Christ.

And, here, some thoughts of my own, heavily inspired by Venkatesh Rao’s Breaking Smart (note to NRX would-be conquerors of the world:  that whole series is required reading):

 

Simple solutions that solve the problem you want solved, and fit the way the problem is framed in your mind are easy to come up with and think about.  But that rules out a very large set of solutions that don’t fit those criteria, but fit others that you might care about a lot if you stopped to think about them.

An example that springs to mind are Douglas fir trees.  Douglas firs grow very tall—taller than their root structure should allow.  They should fall down.  But they don’t, because they intertwine their roots with each other, such that each tree is supporting a number of other trees, which are supporting it in turn.

I first heard about Douglas firs as a sort of morality tale on the “value of supporting one another.”  And that is all well and good.  But what I think is unexplored is that you cannot meaningfully answer the question of “Which tree is holding up the others?”  Well, they kind of all are, even as they are all held up in turn.  What is true is the root structure is very efficient—each connection serves both to receive support, and to give it, depending on circumstance.  When I think of this, the words “elegant” and “beautiful” come to mind, the way a mathematician uses them.

 

And finally:  pretty much anything from The Last Psychiatrist, who is merciless in the spotlighting of incoherence, and lies to oneself.

6 comments on “Coherence

  1. John Q Public says:

    I’m quite sure the job of people like Venkatesh Rao is to provide propaganda about a brilliant prognosis while the likes of Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg suck the last drops of blood from the corpse of the global economy.

  2. Rao is not to be read for his optimism, nor to be trusted blindly. Keep in mind he is (and would probably describe himself this way) an atheistic trader.

    But. His views on cause and effect are important and need to be read. Moldbug correctly warned us away from this trap, but strategy and thymos both demand something to do, not just pitfalls to avoid.

  3. Oldřich says:

    Anthony Bourdain in my opinion belongs here, with unusual honor that belongs to those, that are able to draw the ultimate conclusion. I might be wrong though, I just like to think I am right here.

    I didn’t get how the firs fit into the theme though.

    • I’m not sure I understand the Bourdain reference.

      As for the firs: Consider the problem of keeping the fir trees up. Imagine you are approaching this at the level of a single fir tree. Putting out strong enough roots to support an entire tree is cost-prohibitive. But putting out much weaker roots, while achievable, looks like a non-solution, as the marginal impact of doing so is minimal at first. Only later (in an already- or mostly-established network of trees) can it be put to best use.

      • Oldřich says:

        Yeah, I get it, I am just missing the connection to the theme of your post. But nevermind, it is a good image to think about. Especially the image of a lone tree straining itself to find roots of his neighbors, rather than investing wisely in anchoring itself deeply.

        I would expect there to be a balancing act between too altruistic trees, being torn off while still lone seedlings and too selfish trees, creating colonies that perish at once. Trees are cool.

        The topic of your post resonated with me, because it is something I think about often. Bourdain is not a conservative, or moral author. But his books glow by the passionate will to confront reality and in a way submit to it, to be overpowered, for better or worse.

        He was a simple cook for a very long time, wrote books about the pleasures and pains (mostly pains) of this simple, mundane and painful lifestyle and then he got famous, traveled the world, had all his wishes fulfilled, so to speak, and then he hung himself.

        And I like to believe, even though it is simply an assertion on my part, that he was simply a man of integrity – on a quest to taste everything of this postmodern reality of ours and he managed to walk it from the lowest parts to the highest and at the highest point of fame and wealth he simply had to draw the conclusion.

        But of course, what really happened is a mystery, I just like stories. If this makes no sense to you, sorry.

  4. Just discovered you and double thumbs up on the Last Psychiatrist.

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